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Public Consultation

The Fluid Roles of Property Development Proponents



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When discussion public consultation in the property development industry, it is important to outline and understand how online consultation fits into the context of the industry. This involves understanding the specific needs and roles of the industry as it relates to public consultation and how the perception of those roles affects consultation.

Based on a series of interviews with principal architects and landscape architects, consulting engineers, project managers, planning consultants, business development directors, and community liaisons, PlaceSpeak has identified these six main roles that property development  industry play over the course of a development.


Fluid Roles of Industry Proponents:


1. Development Permit & Area Amendment Seekers

Working within the framework of the approval process for development permits and/or rezoning is a major focus for industry proponents, specifically developers, but not excluding planning and environmental consultants, planners, architects, and consulting engineers who may all be involved at varying levels of a project. This also applies for industry proponents looking to amend area plans of a municipality as stated in their official community plan.

2. Agenda Setters

Proponents in the industry set the agenda of consultation in collaboration with municipalities. They provide and ideally communicate alternatives for development to the public. Developers and planners propose a new future for land, in concert with architects and/or consulting engineers who propose their designs and structural expertise. Quite often they are also seen as gatekeepers and key influencers with the most power in a consultation that guide project outcomes and decision‐making.

3. Public Relations Managers

Underlying the consultation process is that the project can directly impact public perception of the proponent. Because most proponents in the industry belong to the private sector, public consultation is intrinsically tethered to the company’s public relations, brand management and tied to larger business plans for organizational growth. This is especially so with contentious development that may drastically change the landscape of a specific geography, or when development involving natural resources is concerned.

4. Trust Builders

Industry proponents often do their work in communities with residents who are dissatisfied and critical of the consultation process. They may have a distinct opinion – perhaps in opposition to the proponents – even before consultation has begun. For this reason, proponents involved find themselves as trust and consensus builders, needing to convince specific groups to come alongside development proposals while also dealing directly with those in direct opposition.

5. Competitors

There is constant competition for project work between industry proponents. The RFP process, particularly at the municipal and regional level is highly competitive with proponents eager to learn of tools to give them the advantage to be selected.

6. Collaborators

While they may be competitors in their industry, proponents are also colleagues who collaborate on projects. Developers provide deep capital and investment into projects. Architects must pose and answer design‐related questions. Planning consultants provide context to how development may fit into larger context of official community or area plans. Environmental consultants consider the ecological implications of development. Consulting engineers provide specific technical building science expertise.

At any given stage, all can be engaged in varying degrees within the public consultation process. Industry proponents also heavily collaborate with municipalities, who often connect with and contract out to consultants to conduct their public engagement outreach.


This is the second of a series of posts on online public consultation in the property development industry.  The series was inspired by a report by Maureen Mendoza as part of the MITACS Research Accelerate Internship Program and as part of course requirements with the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia. You can read and download the entire report here.


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